One of the most highly anticipated Netflix originals arrived last week: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was pitched as Riverdale’s spookier sister series back when it was in the arms of the CW Network, but fans of horror and good television (sorry not sorry, Riverdale fans) thought things were looking up when the show was given two seasons on Netflix. I really wish I could tell you it was worth the wait.
All the key ingredients to a good show are there — an interesting background story, sensational visuals and a delightfully ridiculous plotline all seem like a great time at first. Three episodes in, Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is being sued by Satan himself for breach of contract. No, I’m not kidding, that’s in the show. In the end, however, these elements aren’t utilized to their full potential and you’re left with a horrible amount of “what if?” questions that leave you imagining a much better show.
‘Archie’ fans had been hoping that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina would be a more polished alternative to Riverdale, given that there are a smaller amount of episodes to work with that must be carefully planned in advance. That planning seems to have never happened though, because the show doesn’t even know what it really wants to be.
Mirroring Sabrina’s struggle to balance the life of a normal teenage girl with that of a sorceress on the verge of selling her soul to the devil, the show’s writers are tasked with properly addressing both sides of her life. The problem is that they have trouble selling her as a girl seeking stability between two opposite worlds. At times Chilling Adventures of Sabrina seems like the Ryan Murphy-esque camp horror I had been looking forward to, but at others it’s a teen drama with a tacked-on Halloween-inspired aesthetic. The result is opposing storylines that cater to two different audiences. The series is billed to be about a witch in a Satanic cult — the people drawn in by that description aren’t going to stay for a teenage love triangle.
Early in the series, they rehash an entire plot from the first season of Riverdale, with only a magical twist offering any originality. A group of women team up to pull a humiliating prank on a group of jocks whose only personality trait seems to be “misogynist”. Especially for the target demographic Sabrina is undoubtedly meant for, there’s nothing wrong with showing women fighting back against oppressors — but the show is doing far more telling than showing. Sabrina is already a witchy spin on your usual smug smirking protagonist, unafraid to fight back against the powers of the Dark Lord himself and backed up by a cast of strong, empowered women. This should all speak for itself; filler plotlines with on-the-nose dialogue don’t need to make that point when the very concept of the show already does. At that point it feels like pandering, as though the show’s creators were attempting to win some points with the political side of the younger generation by tossing a plot like this in the mix. Especially since it has nothing to do with the bigger picture. More screen time could and should have been given to Sabrina’s one woman war against the forces of evil and would’ve got the point across in a more effective and interesting manner. Besides, having the female characters do revolutionary things and then giving them a pat on the back for doing it all while being female is more patronizing than empowering.
Most disappointing of all is that the iconic character of Sabrina Spellman is lost in this new adaptation. Shipka does her best with the material she’s given, but it’s an awful lot less than you’d want from a protagonist with such an extraordinary backstory. The personality and dialogue that come with a magical cool girl like Sabrina Spellman should be writing themselves, but it seems as if the writers got so lost in the bigger story that they forgot to give the girl at the core of it a personality. Most of the time, she just seems present in the midst of it all with no real connection to make to the audience, and it makes watching her struggles more of a chore than a point of interest.